This is the first complete English-language translation of “The Zelmenyaners” a classic of Yiddish literature, one of the great comic novels of the twentieth century. The Zelmenyaners describes the travails of a Jewish family in Minsk that is torn asunder by the new Soviet reality. Four generations are depicted in riveting and often uproarious detail as they face the profound changes brought on by the demands of the Soviet regime and its collectivist, radical secularism. The resultant intergenerational showdowns—including disputes over the introduction of electricity, radio, or electric trolley—are rendered with humor, pathos, and a finely controlled satiric pen. Moyshe Kulbak, a contemporary of the Soviet Jewish writer Isaac Babel, picks up where Sholem Aleichem left off a generation before, exploring in this book the transformation of Jewish life.
Moyshe Kulbak (1896–1937) was a leading Yiddish modernist poet, novelist, and dramatist. Arrested in 1937 during the wave of Stalinist repression that hit the Minsk Yiddish writers and cultural activists with particular vehemence, and given a perfunctory show trial, Kulbak was shot at the age of 41.
Hillel Halkin, an acclaimed translator of Hebrew and Yiddish fiction, is the author, most recently, of Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel and Yehuda Halevi.
Sasha Senderovich is assistant professor of Russian studies and Jewish studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.